Cancer Researchers Form Collaborations, Share Insight at Inaugural Retreat

UAMS cancer researchers gathered May 2 for the inaugural Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Research Retreat.

UAMS cancer researchers gathered May 2 for the inaugural Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute Research Retreat.

| With about 125 cancer researchers and clinical scientists gathered in one spot, new ideas and collaborations are bound to develop.

That was the case May 2 at the UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute’s inaugural research retreat.

“Forging Collaborations: Bridging Gaps in Cancer Research” served as a chance for UAMS scientists involved in all manner of cancer-related research to share ideas, build collaborations and learn about resources available to support their work.

Retreat committee chair Aime Franco, Ph.D. (left) takes a break from the program with keynote speaker Jan Grandis, M.D.,(center) and UAMS Cancer Institute Interim Director Laura Hutchins, M.D.

Retreat committee chair Aime Franco, Ph.D., (left) takes a break from the program with keynote speaker Jennifer Grandis, M.D., (center) and UAMS Cancer Institute Interim Director Laura Hutchins, M.D.

“In order to expand our research capabilities, it’s important for us to learn from each other and look for opportunities to work together. That’s where events such as this retreat are invaluable,” said Aime Franco, Ph.D., chair of the retreat committee. Franco is an associate professor in the UAMS College of Medicine Department of Physiology and Biophysics.

The daylong event attracted investigators from multiple UAMS colleges, and opened with welcome remarks from UAMS Chancellor Cam Patterson, M.D., MBA, and Cancer Institute Interim Director Laura Hutchins, M.D. The Office of the Chancellor and the UAMS Cancer Institute provided support for the retreat.

Throughout the day, attendees heard from UAMS research leaders about advances in both hematological and solid tumor malignancies. Speakers addressed topics related to basic, clinical, translational and population science research, as well as outreach.

“This retreat was an important step in the continuing growth and development of our research programs. Gaining a greater understanding of the variety of ongoing cancer research at UAMS will help us all look for new and innovative ways to work together in the future,” said Cancer Institute Interim Director Laura Hutchins, M.D.

A keynote presentation by Jennifer Grandis, M.D., of University of California San Francisco, focused on how to build research alliances and promote teamwork within a cancer center.

Retreat participants gathered for a poster session after conclusion of the daylong presentations.

Retreat participants gathered for a poster session after conclusion of the daylong presentations.

The program concluded with an open-forum discussion on ways to stimulate, coordinate and expand local research efforts.

“Not only is strengthening and expanding our research programs essential for the health of Arkansans, it also will advance our ongoing efforts to achieve National Cancer Center Designation,” Hutchins said.

NCI Designation is awarded through a highly competitive assessment process during which cancer centers must demonstrate outstanding depth and breadth of high-quality cancer research, including basic laboratory, patient/clinical and population-based research.

There are 70 NCI-designated cancer centers in 36 states across the country, with the closest to Arkansas being in Memphis (pediatrics only), Dallas and Oklahoma City.

Retreat participants concluded the day with an interactive poster session highlighting 40 local cancer research projects and UAMS core facilities.

In addition to Franco, the retreat committee included UAMS faculty and staff representing a variety of colleges and departments involved in cancer research:

  • Mazin Safar, M.D., associate professor, UAMS College of Medicine Division of Hematology and Oncology
  • Joseph Su, Ph.D., M.P.H., professor, UAMS College of Public Health Department of Epidemiology
  • Brian Walker, Ph.D., professor, UAMS College of Medicine Department of Internal Medicine
  • Sandy Moore, M.A., laboratory operations coordinator, UAMS Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute
  • Alan Tackett, Ph.D., professor, UAMS College of Medicine Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and associate director for basic research in the Winthrop P. Rockefeller Cancer Institute